There are only 10 days to go before Expo 2015 opens in Milan. I’ve heard about where it is and heard updates from my husband every time he drove past the Expo construction site, but have spent all this time very disconnected from the event. Located a short distance outside Milan, it is interestingly positioned across the street from the Baranzate prison.
I don’t really know what Expo is supposed to be beyond a reason to bring countries together and more tourism to Milan. I know the theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. I know some countries have backed out of Expo, but that 20 million people are expected to visit. I know tickets run around 30 euros for a 1-day visit and that a lot of money has gone into making Expo possible.
Today, Tuesday, 21 April 2015, my husband accompanied me to the Expo construction site, because I was interested in seeing it. Although, I kept hearing that it was still so far from completion, that the workers were working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to complete the convention centre by 1 May, I really didn’t expect to feel what I did while walking outside the perimeter.
As we drove up, I saw cranes at work, small makeshift buildings for the construction teams, I saw hints of the architectural design beyond the trees, trucks arriving and leaving, groups of business suits looking over documents and drafts. I saw men in orange vests and helmets and a bus arriving at 11 am with the next shift of construction workers. I suddenly saw Expo differently. There are people saying with a laugh “che figura faremo?!” (What kind of impression are we going to make?!”) because at 10 days from the grand opening, the Expo convention centre is still a work in progress. Perhaps parts won’t even be finished in time. For the last three years, I’ve seen Italy’s economy suffer, seen how Expo might not be beneficial for us. I worry that maybe we will have invested so much money and not get the return we need to keep our city and country going.
But as I climbed onto the fence of the Baranzate prison to take photos of the construction site, everything changed. In a moment in which jobs are scarce, people are being laid off or are on unemployment with little to no prospect of finding work, Expo is giving a lot of people work. All those construction workers, whether they work day or night, are bringing home money to support their families.
In a country where our ex-Members of Parliament earn an endless and incredibly high pension, here are people who construct the possibility of a better future for all of us, whether it’s an extra convention centre for future events or the opportunity to see how we plan on feeding our planet in a more eco-friendly manner, how we plan on saving those who are undernourished and at high-risk of contracting deadly diseases, or learning more about the effects of obesity. Forget about the politicians, because those men in orange vests are the real labourers who keep our country going. These are the people who move the economy.
I arrived at the construction site without any desire to see Expo. I left feeling that it is now an obligation for me as a sign of solidarity for all the construction workers who are making this event possible. I do not know what people will see in 10 days time from the exact spot I was standing, but what I do know is that they will see signs of hope for a better future.